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Success breeds success with social collaboration

Blog: Colin Crofts - Business Process Improvement

For any social collaboration initiative, one of the biggest challenges is making the leap from the early adopter stage to broad, cross-organisation use of the platform. Whether you’ve built your initiative on a foundation of viral, grass roots adoption of a free tool, or whether you’ve sensibly started small and focused, with a carefully identified use case and a group of enthusiastic pilot users, translating this into new use cases and engaging employees who may be resistant to changing their ways of working can be extremely difficult, and is often the point at which such initiatives peter out.
Often, the biggest missed opportunity is in failing to fully capitalise on that early success, to make sure that you get every possible value out of it. Some of this is about demonstrating credibility; if you can show senior leaders the tangible value that teams and individuals are getting from using the technology, it will help them to buy into what you are trying to do. Some of it is about publicity; finding ways to stay in people’s consciousness is a constant challenge, especially when day-to-day business problems inevitably take people’s attention away. The more positive stories you can find to share with people, the more you can reinforce the idea that this change is here to stay; it’s not just another passing fad.
But perhaps more important is that sharing your success stories – the use cases for your platform that actually deliver value in a business context, whether through making people’s jobs easier, saving them time, or enabling things to happen that simply couldn’t have happened without their use of the social collaboration technology – allows people to understand WHY. This is probably the biggest challenge for people in adopting social collaboration; they simply don’t know why and how this is relevant and potentially valuable to them. Context is extremely important; firstly to show what collaboration means in the context of your particular organisation, given its industry and culture for example, and secondly to show what it means in the context of an individual’s particular role or in a particular team. 
Replication is your starting point – the more times you can replicate your early adopter use case across the business, the better. But more than that, you want to inspire people, to help them come up with their own ideas for how the technology could help them. A great idea is to build these success stories into your training courses, like Springer Nature (formerly Macmillan Science and Education) has done, and encourage people in that setting to discuss potential ways they could emulate this, or to come up with alternatives.
The final point I want to mention here is the advocate opportunity. Not only is it important to share your successful use cases far and wide, it’s also critical to highlight the individuals and teams involved in those successes. This is something that is often forgotten about, but it can actually provide a fantastic boost to your efforts, as these early adopters are often your very best advocates, especially if they were not wholly behind you to start with. The more you can celebrate these teams across the organisation, and encourage them to share their experiences with their peers themselves, rather than you doing it as a third-party, the more real and genuine they will come across. This is ultimately your goal; you want people to collaborate because it is worthwhile, and these individuals are the perfect spokespeople for that. Celebrate them well.

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